Discovery Run

I did myself a favor. I stuck around another night in Jacksonville after the wedding last Saturday.

What do I have to show for it? For starters, Peterbrooke (well, I did…it didn’t last long), a good movie, and a great dinner.

But the best was my Sunday morning run. I got in 3.8 Saturday morning before meeting friends for breakfast before the wedding. But Sunday morning was what weekend running is all about. No time limits. No expectations. Just exploration. A chance to discover.

The little running I did when I lived in Jacksonville (’90-’02) was all neighborhood (Arlington, Mandarin). I never ran downtown. So I was excited to run around the AirBnB in Springfield and, since it was only a few miles south, Downtown.

There’s a vibe when you run downtown in any city. It’s not the isolation of the country or the ease of a neighborhood. There’s an energy. Even in the absence of traffic, there’s a sense of life unlike anywhere else. And I like it. Especially in the early morning hours.

From running the Main Street bridge, to hearing church bells ring, to discovering Henry J. Klutho Park, it was one of the most pleasant runs in recent memory.

Thank you, Jacksonville! You put a smile on my face every time.

Whispers to a Hot Minute

A hot minute about anger.

This morning I was angered by a social media post by a friend. This post, without a doubt, did harm. That in itself causes anger. This post, without a doubt, did harm to a mutual friend. That causes more and deeper anger.

And the reality is, social media posts can cause us anger just about every minute of the day, giving us the opportunity to feel like the whole day is one hot minute. These posts don’t necessarily have to be by people we know. Unfortunately, we are leered into getting hot from posts by people we don’t even know. We can believe the lie that we know their intentions, but reality is that’s impossible.

This morning, I had the same impulse most of us do. “Why don’t I point out the harm and basically put my friend in his place?” Thankfully, I refrained. Then my hotness said, “Well, sure, don’t put it out there for everybody to see. Just send him a private message.” Very tempting, but thankfully I still refrained. So what did I do? I went for a run.

So let me explain. Rarely do I run at 1PM. And rarely is going for a run a solution. But I know myself enough to know that one way to keep me from doing something stupid is to do something good. And some of my best thinking is while I’m running.

Sure enough, the hot minute subsided and the angry rebuttal left the front of my mind. Some call that regulation or de-escalation. In spiritual terms, I’d say it’s dropping your ego in order to let God have a say.

So here are God’s whispers while on my run:

  • “One person’s lack of turning their cheek doesn’t give you the right to do the same.”
  • “A fool is better left alone. I don’t need your help setting them straight.”
  • “Offer forgiveness rather than advice or judgment.”
  • “Consider how Jesus approached the harm Judas created.”

And that’s how I’ll be able to go to sleep tonight. Listening and following the whispers cooling my hot minute.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

10 Minutes in New Orleans

Last weekend we traveled to New Orleans to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll race. Unless you hibernate in your hotel, you see and therefore learn a lot in New Orleans. I’ve never been disappointed visiting New Orleans.

As for seeing and learning in New Orleans, a visit there should include taking in great food. We made it a point to not eat at the same place twice. Not necessarily hard to do, but certainly fun to achieve. Here’s the food establishments we visited during our stay:

The Milk Bar

We ate just about anything you could ask for: crawfish, shrimp and grits, crab, gumbo, pasta, burgers, pizza, chocolate, ice cream, and beignets. No regrets.

Boil Seafood House

I can only imagine the challenges these owners and employees have survived during the pandemic. This race, an annual event, wasn’t even held last year. And who knows how many others were canceled. So to be open and surviving is a testament to their commitment to their business and their customers.

We Floridians came to town somewhat clueless to the continuing COVID protocols in place in New Orleans. We learned real quick. Not in a rude way, but it was clear we were not at home. Mask mandates required us to mask up everywhere we went. No problem. Happy to comply. In some places, vaccination proof was required; we knew this as a requirement to enter the race expo. No problem. Happy to comply.

What was interesting to see was how the employees of these ten food businesses went about treating their customers while holding to these protocols. 9 out of 10 were excellent experiences. Regardless of their choosing to uphold the protocols or choosing to require vaccination proof, these employees treated their customers with excellent respect and warmth as they worked under unusual circumstances.

Our best experience was at Kilwins on Decatur Street. It was Sunday afternoon, and my friend wanted a shake. Google told us the closest shake available was Kilwins, so we headed there. We passed Cafe Beignet on our way there and decided it was time to get some beignets as well, after Kilwins. The next 10 minutes was a lesson in customer service.

If you know me, a “no” to ice cream is rare. But I was saving room for beignets. Even the chocolate was not tempting me in Kilwins. We already had our share from Leah’s Pralines, so I didn’t enter Kilwins with a shopping mindset. Just taking it in. We were not greeted at the door by anyone checking proof of vaccination. What we were greeted with was employees behind the counter welcoming us in the store, “Welcome to Kilwins!” My buddy ordered his shake, while I eyed the chocolate. Nicey, behind the counter, asked if I needed any help. I said, “No, just looking.” She offered to give me a fudge sample. Do you think I said no? After that sample of her favorite, she asked if I saw another fudge I’d like to sample. Well, I had to admit I didn’t need a sample. I had been hooked into buying a chunk of Toasted Coconut Fudge, simply because it sounded intriguing. Plus, Nicey lived up to her name. We walked out of Kilwins happy shake and fudge customers expecting to enjoy more happiness in beignet land.

We went from the best customer experience to the worst customer experience in what felt like another city, but only two stores apart. Not to bore you with the details, but suffice it to say one Cafe Beignet employee was determined to have things her way when it came to COVID protocols to the point customers did not feel welcomed. We were thankful for outside seating.

In that ten minutes in New Orleans, we saw and learned a few things about customer service, about how to treat one another during challenging times, about power, about treating others the way you want to be treated.

To the 90% of New Orleans businesses that made our trip amazing, thank you. We remember our time with you as minutes well spent, minutes we were seen and heard, minutes you thought more about us than you did yourself. Keep giving your customers great minutes!

Race Day is Coming…Ready?

Yesterday my run was a 6-mile route I created last Summer. It mostly runs east and west, as you can see here:

At the mile 1 turnaround, I noticed something. I had been running with the wind to my back, which meant for the next three miles it was now in my face. Made me stop (I didn’t actually stop running) and think…and this is where my mind went the next three miles.

Some windy days are worse than others. On those worse days, like this past Sunday when gusts were 20+MPH, I run as much as possible in the crosswind. Of course, you always have the choice to say, “No thanks. I’m not even lacing up.”

Ultimately, you need to run into the wind. Why? Because Race Day is Coming!

All the training weeks before race day you can do whatever you want in choosing to deal with the elements. But come race day, it’s out of your hands. There’s no opting out. The course is already laid out, and the elements are not in any human’s hands. Race Day is here. You have to deal with it.

Runner or not, we all have race days.

  • Newly engaged…race day is coming
  • Newly pregnant…race day is coming
  • Final child about to graduate…race day is coming
  • Mid-life career change approaching…race day is coming
  • Anticipating retirement…race day is coming

These race days, if you’re living life well, you see coming and can do your best to make the right training choices. There are some race days you don’t see coming. Like 100MPH wind race days. If you are a “This Is Us” fan, this week you saw Beth and Randall have to deal with a major Race Day with their 17-year-old. All race days, known and unknown, come, and you don’t have a choice but to deal with the elements.

So what do we do? Sure, most training days and race days are mild. Enjoy them to the fullest. On those “unmild” days, recognize you have choices. If you want to be ready for race day, you’ve got to be willing to run into the wind occasionally. When that’s not your best option, it’s okay to slow the pace or claim it as rest day.

Be wise. Race day is coming.

You Have Options

Three Saturdays ago I was sleeping the day away, pretty sure I had COVID. Test came back the next day affirming my suspicion.

I test my health often by running. Can I? How did it go? Do I need a nap soon after? Yadda yadda.

Thankfully my case was mild. I “ran a test” with a decent 5k the following Wednesday, but not every run since has been an indicator that all is well.

Earlier this week I set a plan to run each day this weekend-a progressive schedule of six miles on Friday, seven on Saturday, and eight on Sunday. Nothing new. This was a routine schedule this past Fall.

Not sure what it is, but Friday runs since the Summer have occasionally been rough. Yesterday was one of them. I cut it short, ending up with 4.15 miles. I haven’t let my mind look at Fridays any differently…well, until yesterday.

So last night and this morning I debated how far I should run this morning. Not running wasn’t an option I considered. I landed on simply running the same route as yesterday and see how the six went. Around mile two my legs felt pretty much like yesterday, not quite as sluggish. I decided it didn’t matter what pace I had to adjust to, how much walk/running I had to do, six miles was happening today.

A little over three miles I stopped for a quick water break in the park. I didn’t stop long. I didn’t want my body to tell my mind what to do. Somewhere in mile four my legs perked up. I told myself, “Go with it.” I adjusted my course and ran past my next turn taking the next road instead.

I ended up taking four more such turns and completed just under seven miles…with more in the tank.

Here’s my takeaway. We all have days when things don’t go according to plan. We all have to deal with letdowns, apparent failures, missed goals. At the end of those days when we assess the next one, we have options. They range from shutting down to overcompensating. Usually, somewhere in the middle is the best option.

How your next day goes is entirely up to you. You have options.

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

I’m Here To…

Around mile 2 of my run this morning, I passed a runner who was struggling. And I might add, it’s December 31st and 70F at sunrise, so understandable. I feel you.

But what really caught my eye was his shirt. I hadn’t seen one, but maybe you have. Here’s an example:

Gave me a chuckle. And gave me something to think about the rest of my run.

Was that guy actually making a statement about his running? Or was it “just” the first shirt he grabbed?

Was his apparent struggle to be running supported by his shirt? Or was it a declaration a day early of 2022?

Whatever the case, this statement aligns with how we often show up. And it mostly has to do with that second word. That four-letter word says quite a bit. And it often says, much like a familiar bumper sticker, “I’d rather be somewhere else.” So maybe in that runner’s case, “I’d rather be sitting on my lanai, drinking another cup of coffee, watching College Game Day!”

In the spirit of improving how we show up, let me throw out a couple of suggestions.

One, drop the word “just” anytime you’re making a statement about why you’re anywhere. Whatever amount of tongue biting is involved (been there), stay silent until you can state why you’re there without sounding like you don’t want to be.

Second, on a deeper level in the spirit of New Year’s Eve, how about editing this statement to declare how you desire to show up? “I’m here to __________.” How do you fill in the blank this coming Monday at 8AM? What best completes that sentence for your hopes for the first month of 2022? The first quarter? The entire year?

Declare to yourself, to God, and to whoever else that would benefit, “I’m here to __________.”

Here’s to showing up with purpose in 2022!

Tucson Reflection #4

A little travel trivia for you based on an article by Livability (2016):

  • The average American has visited 12 states.
  • The top five visited states are Florida, California, Georgia, New York, and Nevada.
  • California, Florida, and New York residents have visited fewer states than the typical American.
  • 10% of Americans have never been to a state other than the one they live in.
  • Americans take more than four leisure trips per year.

My Thanksgiving trip of 11 days, counting airports, took me to five states. Looking at these trivia points, it would be foolish of me not to see my life as privileged.

At some point on this trip, maybe on a plane or driving around Tucson, a thought occurred to me. The more I travel to new places the smaller I get. I’m pretty sure it was while I was in Tucson. I’m guessing because Tucson was unlike any other city I’ve visited.

Sure, it is American. Sure, it is modern. Sure, it is multicultural. Sure, it is a University town. Sure, it is picturesque. Sure, it is probably just about anything you’d want a city to be where you live or visit.

Something about Tucson, though, expanded my world and reminded me that the world is quite big. Therefore, I am quite small.

Now, someone might read that and the takeaway would be, “That sounds depressing.” Thankfully, with the worldview I have, my response is the opposite. I’m grateful for the reminder.

Too often my world revolves around me. I’m “bigger” than I really am. Is that because I’m American? Single? Male? White? Privileged? Floridian? Alabama fan? Probably. But it’s also because I’m human, in the lineage of Adam. I fall prey to wanting to be like God.

The smaller we children of Adam see ourselves in comparison to God the better our lives are. We allow the fullness of His presence; we give him more space to reveal he’s bigger. Bigger than us. Bigger than our stuff. Bigger than our circumstances. Bigger than our doubts. Bigger than our fears. Bigger.

On behalf of all the children of Adam, thank you, Tucson! You remind us God is Big!

Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash

Tucson Reflection #3

Running in the Holualoa Tucson Half Marathon had more than one first in store for me.

Yes, it was my first, and most likely only, race in Arizona.

One first I didn’t know was going to happen was sitting on a shuttle bus for over an hour to stay warm before waiting another 30 minutes before the start. It would be nice if that didn’t happen again.

The other first that I did know about beforehand was this…the course was mostly downhill. See below:

Sounds easy. Maybe looks easy. Here’s the deal: it messed with my head. I didn’t make an amateur move and start out too fast. It actually felt like I managed my pace pretty well. But it was deceiving. Although it felt okay, turned out my first, and most likely only, largely downhill race may have messed with my head in a totally new way.

You know the boiling frog syndrome metaphor?

Failing to act in a situation increasing in severity until reaching catastrophic proportions.

Well, it didn’t get catastrophic. No paramedics were involved. Nothing like that.

What happened was I thought I was fine and was going to be able to keep the pace I started, but my body didn’t agree with my head. The subtle impact of the course won. It gave me a reminder. Being comfortable, being fine, going downhill has its own challenges. Adjust. Keep learning. The course, the journey always has something to teach you.

On behalf of all us frogs, thank you, Tucson! May we never stop learning!

Tucson Reflection #2

Getting to Tucson was no joke. The trip started by a 5AM EST (3AM in Tucson) alarm in St. Augustine followed by a three-hour stop in Orlando before boarding flight #1 in Tampa. After a four-hour layover in Denver, the final leg of the trip landed me in Tucson; after a short ride to the AirBnB, I got in bed at 12AM. If you’re counting, that’s a 21-hour day. Not necessarily the smartest start to a weekend for running a half marathon.

When you arrive in the middle of the night to a place you’ve never been, you pretty much have no idea, nor do you really care, what that city has to offer. I apologize to you, Tucson, but I had no idea what you had in store for me when I walked out the door to go to lunch a few hours later. You slapped me in the face with this view:

I didn’t mind the surprise. In fact, I couldn’t get enough. For the next 48 hours, I kept shaking my head and saying to myself, and I guess to God, “What? This is spectacular.”

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in Florida most of my life. Maybe it’s because different is intoxicating. Or maybe it’s because most surprises just aren’t this good.

Regardless of the maybes, here’s what I do know. I will never get over that the Creator of things that slap me in the face also humbled himself to see me, to know me, to rescue me, to offer me hope, to say, “Just wait ’til you see what I’m making for you.”

On behalf of all who visit you, Tucson, thank you! You remind us there’s a matchless surprise to come!

I-35 Lesson #4

Have you ever finished something that you started with dread or uncertainty or self-doubt and thought, “Well, that wasn’t so bad”?

Maybe you jumped out of a plane only because your friend coerced you.

Or you survived the dreaded public speaking gig you just knew would end your life.

Or you breathed in relief after that forever-avoided conversation with that family member.

I was surprised at the frequency of the question “would you do it again?” once someone heard of my completing the I-35 Challenge. The answer is, probably not. But that answer has nothing to do with the experience. It has more to do with how completing a once “questionable something” turned “not so bad something” impacts your mindset.

I-35 Lesson #4: Achievement reveals there’s probably something more

Making the photographer’s job easy (early on Saturday, before I’d hit double digit miles). Photo by @sportsphotoscom.

I’ve experienced it, and I’ve observed it. The lack of confidence at the start line of a race is always alive and well. And for the first-time runner or the first-time attempt at a distance, it’s as much about your mind as it is your legs, your shoes, or your sunglasses.

But somewhere along the journey to completion, the thought crosses your mind, “I’m actually going to get this done. I can’t believe this.” And for many of us, maybe even most, another thought crosses your mind at some point when it’s all over, “I wonder if I can do more.”

Yes.

Yes, you can get that degree.

Yes, you can get that promotion.

Yes, you can climb that mountain.

Yes, you can get completely out of debt.

Yes, you can be a great step-mother.

Yes, you can switch careers in your 40’s.

Yes, you can _____________________.

Yes, there’s more.

Would I do it again? Probably not. There’s something more.